Monday 16 December 2019

Geezer's Kildare exit was 'crazy'

'Newbridge or nowhere' campaign boosted Kildare

Kildare’s Eamonn Callaghan
Kildare’s Eamonn Callaghan

There was an almost tragicomic moment that came at the very end of Kildare's 2013 All-Ireland qualifier defeat to Tyrone in Newbridge.

Trailing by three point deep in injury-time, Kildare are awarded a free from close to the point where the sideline meets the '45 yard line on the side of the pitch opposite the stand in St Conleth's Park.

Seánie Johnson, the man whose transfer from Cavan caused so much controversy, attempts to drop the ball in on top of Kildare's big men on the edge of the square with a kick struck with the outside of his right boot.

It flies clean over the black spot.

Seconds later, Joe McQuillan blows for full time and Kildare are out.

Johnson, brought in due to the lack of highly-skilled finishers in the Kildare attack, accidentally does something few of the rest of their forwards can at precisely the wrong time.

And though he didn't know it then, the match would be Kieran McGeeney's last as Kildare manager.

"People started to talk," recalls Eamonn Callaghan. "And then they ended up having this vote at the county board meeting to see if he would stay on, which was absolutely crazy.

"He was there for six years and made five All-Ireland quarter-finals and a semi-final. I was there for the six years before that and we never made a quarter-final.

"People just forgot, maybe. We weren't this big team before he came. He brought us on to a whole new level.

"The players couldn't believe that this had happened."

The Kildare executive vote for McGeeney's removal  by 29 votes to 28, ending his six-year association with Kildare.

"That Tyrone game was a big turning point for Kildare," Callaghan notes.

That was the last genuine All-Ireland contender Kildare hosted in the Championship until last summer's decree of 'Newbridge or Nowhere' after drawing Mayo.

"We said we weren't going to play in Croke Park and Cian came out and backed us. That brought us so much closer together, even just in that week," Callaghan reckons.

"We just wanted to prove to the GAA and the hierarchy that we weren't going to take that sort of stuff any more."

Worse than the injustice, Callaghan says, were the reasons provided.


Season ticket holders, suggestions of crowd disruption, etc.

None of which, it seems, were considered before fixing Saturday's qualifier against Tyrone.

"I remember just thinking 'this is absolute nonsense what they're coming out with here.'

"If they just said: 'look, we'll make more money by playing this game in Croke Park,' then fair enough.

"Just come out and say it. Why do you need to make up all this rubbish about fans fighting for tickets?!

"It was just crazy, the excuses they came up with."

"There was so much attention on the occasion, we actually got energy from it. And that definitely had an effect on how we played."

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